When my son first came to Portugal he told everyone he was learning ‘Porkinese’. He still hasn’t got a grip on the language and constantly makes up his own variations. To the French speaking lady next door I saw him nodding wisely yesterday and repying ‘bom, bom’. I doubt he understood a word she had said. ‘Bom, bom’ I think sounds better than ‘bon, bon’. So maybe he knew where he was going with this.
In Spain a few years ago I proudly asked for baby food in Spanish. I was really coming along with my language skills. I was insistent, repeating the sentence and all I got was a quizzical glance back. Was it my accent? Were they daft? Just sell me some babyfood can’t you?! How difficult could it be? On the drive home I realised I had been saying ‘I want to eat my baby’ rather than ‘I want food for my baby’.
In France last September I told the French bank, insistently in French, that ‘I was a bank account’ and was rather taken aback when they went and found someone who could speak English. Surely I was doing alright, maybe my accent was off? They were just being difficult, eh? Finally they gave me what I wanted. A bank account.
Sometimes the joke’s on the other foot. The other day at the riding stables in Castelo Branco I was told I could pay for three mouths. What? Oh, three months. Right.
All those things are now in-jokes in our household. Jokey shortcuts, part of our household slang and in years to come will be part of the fabric of our family adventures so that we probably won’t remember where they originated. Part of the rich tapestry of life that unites us as a family. Bom, bom.
Have you had any disastrous misunderstandings with your language skills? I’d love to hear about them.